Q&A with Director Peter Farrelly
While wrapping up an article on director Peter Farrelly's adventures trying to get a high-end movie room installed ("Heartbreak Home Theater"), I had a chance to talk to Farrelly about his new movie, The Heartbreak Kid, and about filmmaking in general. (The Heartbreak Kid, which Farrelly co-directed with brother Bobby and which stars Ben Stiller, is now in theaters.)
My first thought after I saw The Heartbreak Kid was, "Gee, I didn't know you guys knew my ex-wife." I think you've really tapped into a common anxiety here. Well, it's playing off the conceit of the original movie. The Heartbreak Kid from 1972 was about a guy who married the wrong woman. And it was coming off a '50s morality where you didn't have sex until you got married. I'm sure many married couples woke up the morning after their marriage and thought, "Was it worth it? Did I get married just to get laid?" But in our movie, the Ben Stiller character doesn't do it just for that. He does it because he met this fantastic woman who is gorgeous and who seems to have it all. But he quickly finds out on the honeymoon that she does not have it all, and in fact, beauty is not enough to make a marriage work.
I don't want to say the movie is dark, but I think this is the hardest-edged film you've done since Me, Myself, and Irene - Yeah. Oh, yeah. - in the sense that you have the courage of your convictions. A lot of movies start out with a really provocative premise but then they wimp out about halfway through - Yeah. - because they want to arrive at a nice, clean conclusion. But this guy is true to his character all the way to the end. Yeah, he is. He is the heartbreak kid.
The movie's got some ugly edges to it. Yes, it does. We could have gone for the squeaky-clean happy ending, but we didn't want to because it would have been a betrayal of what the original is. We really flipped the original upside down, which was about a guy who marries a frumpy woman and then goes on his honeymoon and falls in love with this absolute stunner. In ours, it's about a guy who marries the stunner and then finds a woman who's more grounded, more his type. But, truthfully, it's not his first wife who's the flawed one - it's him, for not marrying his fiancée of 7 years, for marrying this other woman too soon, for not waiting for the right woman at the end.
You wonder about how much he sabotages each one of these relationships. There's one point where he calls his father and says, "Dad, I need a lawyer. You got to get me out of here." And his father says, "Wait a second. You're telling me it's not working out because on her honeymoon she wants to have sex around the clock, and she's singing a lot, and she accidentally got a sunburn?" And he says, "Well, no, no - it's much worse than that." His situation sounds pretty benign when you hear it like that, but what we wanted to do at one point was suggest that he's insane and in fact he's exaggerating all her flaws. But then we decided against that.